Francis Covers the Big Town


1h 26m 1953

Film Details

Also Known As
Francis, Racket Buster
Release Date
Jul 1953
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 10 Jun 1953
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters created by David Stern.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

When Peter Stirling and his best friend, talking mule Francis, arrive in New York City, Pete is sure that his background as editor of his high school newspaper qualifies him to work as a reporter. Although Pete is hired at the Daily Record only as a janitor, Francis swears to make a reporter out of him. Between his own eagerness and Francis' data-gathering conversations with police horses around the city, an apparently well-connected Pete is quickly promoted to copy boy. He develops a crush on sophisticated society editor Alberta Ames, and, when she runs out of stories, supplies her with a huge scoop. Soon, he is supplying all of the reporters with incredible tips, and everyone is anxious to learn his inside source. At home, Pete fails to notice that his next-door neighbor, grocer's daughter Maria Scola, is in love with him, and instead announces to a disgusted Francis that he plans to propose to Alberta. Francis realizes immediately that Alberta has agreed to date Pete in order to learn the identity of his informant, but Pete naïvely allows Alberta to seduce him one evening. When he reveals that Francis is his source, however, she slaps him for teasing her. Francis grows angry when Pete still will not accept that she is a phony, and announces that he will leave as soon as Pete is promoted to reporter. The next morning, police inspector Hansen and District Attorney Evans meet with managing editor Tom Henderson, furious that an article crime reporter Dan Austin wrote, on a tip from Pete, indicates a leak from one of their offices. After Pete interrupts them in order to demand a promotion, he is fired. Austin, however, reveals Pete as his source, and after Pete returns with the killer's hideout location, Henderson proclaims him a reporter. Days later, Pete and Francis walk the streets for scoops, and when the police stop Pete, his explanation about a talking mule lands him in the psychiatric ward. After being released, he prints a story about a jewelry-store robbery that does not occur until after the article is printed. Convinced that Pete is in on the crimes, the police question him, and his revelation about Francis places him back in the psychiatrist's office. This time, Dr. Goodrich accompanies Pete to his home to hear Francis talk, and when the mule obliges, analyzing the psychiatrist's God complex, Goodrich breaks down. As the weeks pass, Pete grows into the city's top newspaperman. One night, he stops by the Scola market, and Maria follows him home. As they sit on the stoop, he learns that her eighteenth birthday is the next night and asks her to dinner. They are interrupted when ruffians knock down Salvatore Scola's vegetable stand, and Francis soon discovers that many small businesses are being harassed as part of a city-wide protection racket. As soon as the story hits the papers, Jefferson Garnett, the wealthy businessman behind the racket, calls Alberta, who is his ex-girl friend, for information about Pete. Delighted by her invitation to a party at Garnett's the next evening, Pete breaks his date with Maria. Dejected, Maria brings carrots to Francis and is shocked when he first consoles her and then advises her to abandon her childish clothing for a more glamorous look. Later, after administering elocution lessons and makeover tips, Francis informs Maria that he is leaving Pete. Meanwhile, at Garnett's, the crooked businessman charms Pete into revealing his source and then demands to meet Francis. They visit Francis' barn, but Pete cannot find his friend and so is attacked by Garnett. Just then, someone reaches into the barn and shoots Garnett, and when Pete picks up the weapon, he is charged with murder. At the trial, everyone considers Pete guilty, and only the missing Francis' testimony can save him. He is about to be indicted when Maria arrives with Francis, who refuses to talk until he is sworn in. The courtroom explodes, but then is even more shocked when the mule promises to round up the real killer that evening. Pete, Maria, the police and Francis wait all night in the barn. A man finally enters and aims a gun at Francis, and when the police grab him he is revealed to be Austin. The reporter claims to have been researching a story on Francis, but the mule intimidates him into confessing that he attempted to blackmail Garnett. When the businessman would not comply, Austin killed him, then framed his rival Pete. Days later, Francis announces to Pete and Maria that the house is so overrun with autograph seekers that they must move. Pete, who has fallen in love with the newly mature Maria, is disappointed until Francis reveals that he does not want to leave because he, too, is smitten--with a lady zebra.

Film Details

Also Known As
Francis, Racket Buster
Release Date
Jul 1953
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 10 Jun 1953
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters created by David Stern.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Francis, Racket Buster. This film was the last of production manager Mack D'Agostino, who died of cancer on November 31, 1953. Francis Covers the Big Town marked the feature film debut of actor Larry Gates. A September 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item adds actress Jean Acker to the cast, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some scenes were shot on location in New York City. For more information on the "Francis" series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry for Francis in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.